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Old 12-29-2010, 08:58 PM   #1
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Default Cleaning and Sanitizing General Questions

Ok...so we all know that cleaning and sanitizing is VERY crucial to making good beer. My questions relate more to the overall process and handling of all equipment to be sanitized pre and post.

When I am brewing up a batch - I typically get started on the boil and about 1/2 way through the entire process, I begin to clean and sanitize my primary bucket / carboy. Everyone has a different method but let's discuss how to remain sterile through the closing of the primary.

For example - everything that touches the wort goes right into the bucket filled with my sanitizer solution (airlock, primary lid and rubber gaskets, thermometers, etc..). Then it is time to pour the wort into the bucket....

1. Do you simply lay these components (airlock, lid, etc..) on the counter or do you have a sort of 'quarantine area' to lay these items while tending to the wort?
2. Do you wash your hands with a specific cleaning compound or wear rubber surgical gloves?
3. When you are taking mid-term gravity readings and have to remove the primary lid - do you completely re-clean that lid? Also, how long is it safe to leave the lid off and have the beer exposed to air?

In general - what contaminates are the most likely to get into the beer and spoil your hard work? Are these contaminates typically airborne or???

I once had a small fruit fly floating inside my carboy filled with sanitizer - just poured it out and cooled wort in - no problems with contamination.

I am curious to others cleaning and sanitation methods...

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Old 12-29-2010, 09:17 PM   #2
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You can search on here and find a million different methods of cleaning/sanitizing. I hate the cleaning and sanitizing process so I do it all before hand. I clean everything with OxyClean and then sanitize it with StarSan. When I say everything, I mean anything that will touch the wort after the boil. I just "clean" the brew pot, spoon mash tun etc. I have some plastic bins to keep everything in after cleaning and sanitizing... I typically sanitize everything in the fermenting bucket... and then dump some of that starsan into the plastic bins to keep the tools/airlock etc. until they are ready to be used.

You should also keep a spray bottle of StarSan around while brewing. Even though I clean and sanitize the fermenter and lid early in the brewing process, I spray them again before putting the wort in and sealing.

As far as checking the gravity during fermentation you don't have to re-sanitize the lid, just be sure your hands are very clean and whatever tools you use are sanitized. There are probably a number of bacteria that could cause infections but I don't there is anything in the air unless you are in a dirty environment.

I hope this helps.

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Old 12-29-2010, 09:18 PM   #3
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1. No, I usually roll out some clean paper towel and lay the items on that.

2. Neither... my hands go into the StarSan solution so many times that I don't get anal.

3. No, I just lay the lid with the top side down. Leaving it open doesn't hurt anything. CO2 is heavier than air so the beer really isn't exposed to the air at that point. Besides, Many commercial breweries still use open top fermenters... there is a photo of one somewhere on the forum.

I don't know whether the contaminates are airborne, but I know that most infections occur from the beer coming into contact with a contaminated item. Anything that is airborne would likely be too small in numbers to hurt anything... it is when they are allowed to multiply is where the problem lies (like in a dirty fermenter pale).

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Old 12-29-2010, 09:20 PM   #4
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Here are what I do:

1. I leave any components like airlock lid etc, IN the sanitizing fluid until I'm putting them on the fermenter

2. I wash my hands normally but ensure I soak them in the sanitizer for a while before I touch wort and keep returning there if I ever touch something I didn't meant to etc.

3. I try to avoid touching the fermenter lid to anything that is unclean, and if I am alone I'll always have sanitizer nearby to put the lid/airlock etc into so I can keep it sanitary. I'll often refill the airlock w/ new sanitizer after this process to get a new fresh top up and remove any potential dust/mold/wild yeast that may have accumulated on the top or something before restoring it to the carboy. (I don't use plastic buckets anymore, but did put those lids in the sanitizer too... always)

Contaminants are almost always airborne at some point, but you can wipe your hand across a dirty surface that contains contaminants, these are any of bacteria, wild yeast, molds, etc. They live and breed all around us...

As for the fruit fly, he was sanitized by sitting in the sanitizer, so you're pretty good... a slight risk maybe but pretty small.

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Old 12-29-2010, 09:21 PM   #5
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1. Generally I'll lay them on something that is rather sanitary like the lid of the bucket I keep my StarSan solution in. However, as long as they remain wet with sanitizer they should be fine to lay in anything other than outright filth.
2. Neither. As long as my hands are somewhat clean (soap and water) I don't worry about it.
3. I don't reclean the lid. I just put it back on. You can leave the beer exposed for quite a while, but I try to minimize it as much as possible. I don't have an exact figure for you. I just loosely put the lid or stopper back on when I'm not interacting with the beer directly.

Fruit flies are a common contaminant but if they are only in the airlock you're fine. A common microorganism contaminant seems to be wild yeast. Another is mold.

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Old 12-29-2010, 10:20 PM   #6
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1. I lay sanitized items on a sanitized surface or a clean towel in the kitchen or wherever i'm brewing.
2. Just dip your hands in sanitizer. Voila!
3. During this process your beer is vulnerable to air born infections, but the chances are pretty slim. Make sure you sanitize your thief or whatever you use to collect a sample and put your lid on a towel or sanitized surface. I say "vulnerable" but don't get too excited because it's not THAT vulnerable. Something seriously whack would need to occur for an infection to develop. Usually by this point there is enough alcohol in the beer and the oxygen-deprived environment is too harsh such that it becomes difficult for mold colonies to form. I wouldn't leave the lid off for more than 30 minutes. It shouldn't take more than 10 to do everything you need and have the lid back on anyway. That's just an arbitrary number though. There is a pretty healthy layer of CO2 on top of your beer keeping unwanted oxygen from oxidizing your beer. It gets wafted off a bit by air currents in the room, but it should be sufficient for the time I mentioned.

For the record, fermenting in an open container is a lot different than fermenting in a closed container and then exposing the beer to ambient air. The open fermentation has matured while being constantly bombarded by ambient molds and fungi, and has developed a microbiology that doesn't allow these ambient microorganisms to infect the beer. Your closed fermentation does not have that particular flora, so don't go around thinking you can leave the lid off and everything will be fine. Also, the breweries I've seen that have open fermentations also monitor the air in the fermentation rooms very carefully to ensure there aren't large populations of infectious organisms.

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Old 01-03-2011, 09:48 PM   #7
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To add to the initial questions:

How long does sanitizer stay effective? For example, I sanitized all of my equipment for the transfer from primary to secondary. I then poured the sanitizer into the bottling buck for storage. When I'm ready to bottle in a couple of weeks, is that sanitizer still good to use, or do I make fresh?

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Old 01-04-2011, 10:42 PM   #8
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I guess it depends on the sanitizer. StarSan is good for awhile. You really only know if it is bad by checking the pH. Thankfully, cheap pH strips will do.

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